Leane Haussmann has had asthma for her entire life.
Although she has had a number of serious flare-ups over the years, she is living well with the condition. “I was diagnosed with asthma when I was two, so as far back as I can remember I was in and out to hospital quite a bit with it,” says the 27 year old. “I remember being in intensive care for the week leading up to my debs and I was very sick – so that was a really frightening time.
“But, since then, I really took control of my medication and started taking all of it properly, every day, regardless of whether I was well or not. I also made sure to monitor my symptoms in order to notice what would make my health decline – and I discovered that allergies, dust, pollen and dampness are my triggers and the symptoms would include coughing, wheezing, breathlessness and chest tightness.
“But while these were not nice, I think it’s nearly scarier for the family to watch someone have an asthma attack than it is for the asthmatic, because, for me, it was always after the attack that I would say, ‘that was scary’, rather than in the moment.”
But despite the condition impacting her life, she has always been determined not to let it define her and, along with playing sports and exercising, she also has a physical job with the Garda Síochána. So, she would advise anyone whose child has just been diagnosed with the condition to learn as much as they can about it and try not to worry – as, with good management, she says people with asthma can live full and normal lives.
“At least one person with asthma dies every week in Ireland due to the disease, with an estimated 90 per cent of these deaths believed to be preventable,” says the Cork woman. “But even though I have the condition, I am very active. I go to the gym, play basketball and walk daily – although I can’t run during the winter months with the dampness, so I adapt and go on the bike indoors instead.
“So although I have asthma, I don’t let it stop me from achieving anything I set my mind to or is important to me – and I have an inhaler in every coat pocket and handbag, just in case. I believe that keeping to a routine and taking my daily medication are the reasons I can live life symptom-free and to the fullest.
“Of course, when a child is diagnosed with asthma, parents can find the huge amount of information about lifestyle changes, combined with the worry about their health, to be overwhelming, so I would definitely recommend that they, and also teachers, look at the Asthma Society of Ireland website as it has so many useful videos and ‘How To’ guides for them to use which may help during an asthma attack.
“Asthma hasn’t slowed me down and I don’t think anyone who is diagnosed with asthma should be concerned about the future, providing they take control of their condition with regards to triggers, symptoms and medication. Asthma can’t be cured but, with proper treatment, it can be well-managed – so I don’t think there is any reason why everyone with asthma cannot live a full and active life, symptom-free.”
To raise awareness and funds, on Saturday, September 30th, the Asthma Society will be hosting a guided overnight Glendalough hike in Wicklow. Participants will immerse themselves in natural landscapes, camp under the stars and gather around a campfire to share stories.
“Taking part in Take A Breath Challenge offers an opportunity to contribute actively to meaningful change,” says chief executive Eilís Ní Chaithnía. “By participating, you directly empower the lives of those currently living with asthma and help support the Asthma Society’s life-changing work.
“This work is crucial as someone visits the emergency department every four minutes because of their asthma – and each week in Ireland, a family is devastated by the death of a loved one from asthma – but the vast majority of these deaths are preventable if asthma is controlled.
“Ireland also records the second-highest hospitalisation rate for asthma across EU countries and is around 50 per cent above the EU average while one in 10 Irish children lives with asthma and one in five will experience the disease in their lifetimes.”
Ní Chaithnía says if you can’t make the Glendalough hike, people can still get involved in the challenge in their own locality. “The Asthma Society of Ireland is asking people to ‘Hike Your Way’ by undertaking a scenic walk or hike during the weekend of September 30th with family or friends and sharing your Take A Breath moment online using the hashtag #TakeABreath to be in with a chance to win a prize.”
- ·450,000 people in Ireland have asthma.
- It is an inflammatory disease of varying severity which affects the airways.
- People with asthma have airways that are extra sensitive to substances (or triggers), which irritate them.
- Common symptoms include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness.
- Ireland has among the highest rates of asthma in the world.
- Asthma often begins in childhood but it can start at any age and often runs in families.
- Smoking during pregnancy or exposing a child to tobacco smoke will increase their risk of developing asthma.
- Being overweight increases the risk of developing asthma.
- Some children lose their symptoms as they grow older but asthma is a chronic disease so it never goes away and symptoms can come back later in life.
- If you or someone you care for has any asthma-related questions, you can reach out to the Asthma Adviceline at 1800 44 54 64 or send a message via WhatsApp to 086 059 0132 or visit asthma.ie